Post by Ian from an address given on 3rd June 2012 at New Meeting House on the subject "Sustainability and Responsibility - The Earth is a sacred place, and we belong in it".
I have struggled with this address. The subject matter is huge, and there is the problem of where to begin. Please forgive me if I jump around a little and, as always, the standard disclaimer: the thoughts being presented here are my own, for you to agree or disagree with.
As you heard earlier, with the readings from Genesis (Gen 1:20-31; Gen 9:1-17), I start by going to the beginning. Our cultural heritage places humans at the pinnacle of creation, granted dominion over the fish of the sea, of the birds of the air, and the beasts of the land. We are told, indeed given a duty, to be fruitful and multiply. We have obeyed this instruction.
In Western culture, we accept that the resources of the Earth are our to use as we will. They were, after all, put there by God for our use. We have exported this culture, and this attitude, to the rest of the world during the many years of colonisation. The industrial revolution and the technological discoveries of the Victorian era, and beyond, to the 1950s were years of hope. The technological age was to bring prosperity, a life of ease and comfort for all.
In Native American traditions, a different relationship with the earth was taught. Like the majority of animistic tribal cultures, they lived within the world and granted respect to the others they shared the world with. When an animal was slain, thanks and forgiveness would be sought of the dead animal. Thanks that, by their death, they sustain the tribe. Forgiveness, for the death that has been brought on them.
A Pawnee, Letakos-Lesa or Eagle Chief stated: In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and moon should man learn.
Back to Genesis for a brief moment, the other animals were also told to be fruitful and multiply. A covenant was made by God, after the flood, with all life. In Leviticus, Jews are given the instructions: When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. (Leviticus 19:9-10).
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